Ronnie O'Sullivan had barely taken his seat beside Barry Hearn at the pre-tournament press launch for this year's World Championship on Monday before he looked like he would rather have been anywhere else than here right now.
The venue for the question-and-answer session was the Groucho Club, a spot frequented by media sorts just off London's Leicester Square. It was an outpost far too small for this level of grand unveiling which only added to the general sweatiness of the occasion.
"Wakey, wakey," said Hearn, chairman of World Snooker and a former manager of another multiple world champion in the shape of Steve Davis, encouraging the game's blue chip event to cast off his obvious disinterest ahead of the plethora of forthcoming questions.
O'Sullivan, from Chigwell, has never been a huge fan of such events. "We do what we can with him," is the line from World Snooker when you wonder why he won't commit to more than a 20-minute press conference.
O'Sullivan was more talkative to more attendees when paid by a vodka company in February as he announced his return to the sport. There was nothing really in Monday's press conference for him. Certainly not cash.
He tends to get bored very quickly, once crudely comparing a microphone to genitalia during a press conference a few years back in China. He was unlikely to fraternise with such high jinks in the middle of London. But then again with Ronnie, one never knows what is coming next.
It is this sort of step into the great unknown that makes him such a bewildering and somewhat addictive attraction to snooker watchers. Without him there, fans have missed a fix of what he brings to the business. The 2011 world finalist Judd Trump likes to play the game with the same type of flair, but cannot compare to O'Sullivan's rich offerings.
Trump has noticeably tried to emulate O’Sullivan’s characteristics away from the table, but he is too predictable a bloke in comparison. He is also just a novice. That is not a criticism, just an observation.
His persona as some sort of playboy is all a bit manufactured. O’Sullivan is his own man, reacting to certain dilemmas purely on instinct. On and off the table. Whatever O'Sullivan has got it sells. Ask the vodka company. They also bottle it.
While the game's top ranked player Mark Selby turned up early at Monday's press conference, looking as clean-cut as a funeral director and behaving impeccably, O’Sullivan stumbled into the room seconds before the press conference, dressed in a hoodie and giving off the air that he had been dragged through a hedge. Typically chaotic. Just how he likes it.
He plays Marcus 'The Pride of Dumbarton' Campbell in the first round on Saturday. "It’s sort of like my own reality TV show. It could be car crash, could be good. You just don’t know," said O'Sullivan.
There was one question that couldn't be answered. At least not at this moment in time.
Is there a possibility O'Sullivan could walk away from the game if he wins the World Championship for a fifth time? Or even if he doesn't? O'Sullivan is as changeable as the weather. It is unwise to speculate on what comes next in this snooker pantomime.
He is priced at 6-1 joint favourite by new title sponsors Betfair alongside Selby and Neil Robertson, the man he usurped in last year's quarters. What are the odds on him quitting (again)? Longer than 6-1?
O'Sullivan has not played any kind of competitive snooker since September. He announced in November he was withdrawing from tournaments for the rest of the season.
Whatever else is said about the sport without O’Sullivan, it has been damaging to snooker's public perception to be without its headline act.
When Tiger Woods was away from golf, it was difficult for the number one ranking of Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer to carry any legitimacy because the best player in the world was not in the game. What has happened since Woods returned? Tiger is back at number one.
Like Majors in golf, world titles are what it is all about in snooker. Selby spoke to me about his prospects of a first World Championship amid a season in which he has snagged the UK Championship and the Masters while O'Sullivan was off working on a farm.
The man from Leicester points out that no player is bigger than the sport, but you can be assured he would rather have O'Sullivan in the field if he wins at the Crucible. It would be a slightly hollow sensation to carry off the trophy with such a protruding figure missing.
Will O’Sullivan win it? If he competes as astutely as he did last year, the rest do not stand much of a chance. Not over the longer distances. But this is a different year. It will depend on how O'Sullivan's mental compass holds up.
It may not say much about snooker if O'Sullivan returns from such a prolonged absence to win. But it would be much worse if O'Sullivan were to emerge victorious then opt out (again).
Joe Davis retired from the World Championship after winning his 15th world title in 1946. He remains the only undefeated player in the history of the World Championship, but it has not enhanced his legend. Snooker must avoid a similar scenario.
Unlike the origins of snooker, before even the days of Joe and Fred Davis, Ronnie O'Sullivan is not a relic of the Raj. He is a gift to his sport. But what snooker does not need is the threat of another season with the world champion on a sabbatical.
Jimmy White has been helping O'Sullivan to get match fit ahead of the tournament. I asked Jimmy before last year's happenings if his fellow crowd pleaser had one more world title left in him. "One more? He has six or seven, mate," responded White. He could yet equal or go beyond Hendry's seven if he wants to. But it remains a big if.
O'Sullivan's tactical adroitness, his potting and plotting ability or box-office billing cannot be questioned. Unfortunately, his reliability continues to leave room for doubt.